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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Some Scary Good Beers


I'm not sure who came up with the concept of the mixed-12 pack where three or four different styles of beer are combined in a half-case, though I rather doubt it was any of the mega-brewers. After all what would Budweiser have put in a mixed-12 twenty or so years ago? Budweiser with three or four different label designs?  I suppose A-B could have had a mix of Budweiser - a rather bland German-style lager, Bud Light - an even blander German-style lager, Michelob - basically more expensive and Michelob Light -more expensive Bud Light.  You get the idea. Everything would have been a variation on German-style lager as interpreted by Budweiser. What would be the point? One of the earlier mixed-12s I recall was a Sam Adams mix. I don't exactly recall all the beers - probably Sam Adams Boston Lager, as that's their flagship beer. There was probably their Irish Red, maybe their Cream Stout or Boston Ale. The only other beer I remember for sure from that mix was their Cherry Wheat. I know that I enjoyed all of the beers in that pack except Cherry Wheat. I thought it was awful. After trying one, I had two or three bottles of it hanging around in my fridge for months. And therein lies the rub: it seems that any mixed-12 has one loser. Once you've tried one of them, what do you do with the rest?

I picked up a mixed-12 from 21st Amendment recently. 21st Amendment brews some fantastic beers. Their Brew Free or Die IPA is terrific as is their Back in Black. Their Fireside Chat may be the best spiced winter ale I've ever had. A perfect blend of hops, chocolate malt and spices that still tastes like beer. So when I saw a mixed-12 with those three beers plus a fourth I'd never had, I took a chance since I'd never had a bad 21st Amendment beer. Well...I suppose, three out of four ain't bad. The fourth beer is El Sully, a Mexican-style lager. It looks like a Coors Light, with a color barely darker than water. And the taste. Sadly, it tastes like one of those Mexican lagers, which is to say, like any number of American style mega-brew lagers. It's a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I expect a beer from 21st Amendment to have some zing. This doesn't. I now have two of them that will reside in my basement fridge until I can unload them on some unsuspecting Coors fan. As for the other nine beers - they will not last long. I'll give 21st Amendment a pass on this one, assuming it's an attempt to appeal to a wider base (though, seriously, would Stone Brewery ever brew a bland lager? I think not! Just saying).

A few exceptions to the rule:


Alright, so we missed Halloween, but our latest meeting was close enough, so we decided to go with beers with some appropriately spooky names. We ended up with a bunch of frighteningly tasty brews.


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Shipyard Brewing Co., Portland, ME, STYLE: Rye India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9%; IBUs: 60; MALT: Pale, Crystal 77,Rye, Carafoam; HOPS: Bravo, Apollo, Centennial, Cascade; YEAST: Top-Fermenting English

What the Brewer Says: "Don't fear the hops...Little Horror of Hops is a hoppy Rye IPA balanced by a complex malt blend. Peppery spice notes and a robust citrus hop flavor complement the dry hop finish."

Color: Copper

Pour: Decent head with lingering effervescence, and pleasantly carbonated

Aroma: Malty with a grassy / hay / straw pungency.

Body: Medium

Taste: Balanced but leaning toward the hoppy, bitter end of the spectrum. English yeast gives it that British style IPA vibe with a bit of an American IPA bite.

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "Not as hoppy as the name might suggest; Lingering bitter after-taste following a mild opening; Definitely taste the British yeast with that sort of clove-ish undertaste; Hoppier than most Brit IPAs though; The Cascade and Centennial hops come through to give it a kind of hybrid English/ American IPA taste; A nice fall beer with the sort of cozy bready taste, works well on a crisp fall evening."


The Beer Facts:BREWER: Devil's Backbone Brewing Co., Roseland, VA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.2%; IBUs: 60; MALTS: Pilsen, Caramel Malts, Torrified Wheat; HOPS: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe

What the Brewer Says: "This is the first batch of beer we brewed after the conception of Devil's Backbone Brewing Company in 2008. Our brewmaster Jason Oliver was thinking about how to design the IPA when he heard a rustle near his fence line...where he saw two young proud eight point bucks walking along it. He decided to name the beer after those young bucks as it seemed to fit the spirit of the beer, which is proud, brash, youthful, yet approachable."

Color:Golden honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Delicate aroma of citrus and pine with a bit of grain/hay


Taste: Hoppy grapefruit, pine with a nice bitter bite. Clean at the finish

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes bigger than 6.2%, Fine malt underpinning; Sturdy; It's this type of IPA I really like; Great summer IPA; Very pleased with this choice; Made us break into song; Tastes just like another one; This really is what I look for when I drink an IPA."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Elysian Brewing Co,  Seattle, WA; STYLE: Pale Ale; ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 53; MALTS: Pale, Munich, Crystal, Cara-hell; HOPS: Bittered with Sorachi Ace and finished with Crystal.

What the Brewer Says:: "Light tropical flavors balanced with a crisp malt-hop finish."

Color: Unfiltered buckwheat honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Sweet

Body: A bit beyond Medium

Taste: Balanced but leaning toward more sweet than bitter, with hints of toffee

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough

Comments: "Sweet beginning - like a yellow Easter Peep; Complex flavor - not over-hopped; Pineapple notes; Tropical fruits; A Pale that could pass for an IPA; 7% is pretty big for a Pale; You can really taste the malt; Fills the mouth; I like the label, catches your eye; I've grown to expect this from Elysian, though it makes me sad that they sold out to A-B; I guess the name tells you what the brewers think of that."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, Ore.; STYLE: IRA (India Red Ale); ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 75; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Cara-Red; Crystal, Flaked Barley; HOPS: Galena, Millennium, Ahtanum, El Dorado, Mosaic.

What the Brewer Says: "The idea for this beer was to make a super drinkable hoppy beer with a touch of caramel malt to bring some dryness and malt flavor into the finish."

Color: Cloudy golden

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Grassy hop and spicey

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Delicious grapefruit, citrus hoppiness with caramel malt underneath

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "I'm a fan!; I like the piney bite it has; Delicious; Holy crap, this is good; Great Red;Fast becoming one of my favorite breweries - also love their Tricerahops; Just a really tasty beer; That caramel taste with the hops creates a nice, complex flavor."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Elysian Brewing, Seattle, WA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.2%; IBUs: 73; MALTS: Great Western premium two-row, c-15, Dextra-pils; HOPS: Chinook, Citra, Amarillo.

What the Brewer Says: "The hopping is pure starglow energy, with Chinook to bitter and late and dry additions of Citra and Amarillo."

Color: Clover honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Pine

Body: Close to Full

Taste: Toward bitter with piney and citrusy hops combined with a nice butterscotch sweetness for balance.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Doesn't taste like an 8.2% - very smooth; Could make you fall off your stool; Just delicious; Balanced; The butterscotch taste is cut nicely with the bitterness of the hops; Great beer - can't believe we haven't rated it until now; I just hope A-B keeps a hands-off approach here and allows Elysian to continue to brew good beer. I'd hate to see them come in and ruin a good thing - we'll see."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, Louisville, KY; STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: 68; MALT: Pale, Vienna, Munich, wheat; HOPS: Citra, Centennial, Columbus.

What the Brewer Says: "Citra hops are a relatively new variety introduced in 2008. It was bred as a hybrid of a number of different hops, including Hallertauer Mittelfruh, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold, and other unknown hops. The resulting hop, Citra, has a distinct citrusy and tropical fruit flavor and aroma. In Citra Ass Down we used American Columbus for bittering and 11# of Citra at the end of the boil for late kettle addition flavor and aroma. Then we added 6 more pounds of Citra and 5# Centennial post fermentation for aroma. Rebrewed for your tasting pleasure!"

Color: Unfiltered wheat

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Hoppy citrus, a bit earthy

Body: Near Full

Taste: Bitter with strong hints of tropical fruit - orange, tangerine, pineapple.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Already has a '10' for the name; Yeah, that goes in my Beer Name Hall of Fame for sure; Tastes like some of the New Zealand hops; I bought it on the name alone, glad I did; Real tropical fruit vibe; Great job by C's market in Oswego, NY for directing me to this beer; Wow, another fantastic beer, not a loser yet today, well, besides Loser Pale Ale, which by no means was a loser."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Foley Brothers Brewing, Brandon, VT; STYLE: American Double / Imperial IPA; ABV: 9.0%; HOPS: Galaxy, Citra;  Limited release

What the Brewer Says: "Double IPA brewed with grain from Vemont and Maine."

Color: Unfiltered Wheat

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Pine

Body: Full

Taste: Strong bitter, pine, citrus-forward with subtle biscuit malt

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments:"Best nose of any beer today; Smells delicious; Should be drunk from a snifter; Takes the day - and we have had some really good beers; This could kill you; One of the best beers I've had; More of a grapefruit guy - but this piney beers is great; I don't want this one to end."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Clown Shoes Brewery, Ipswich, MA; STYLE: American Imperial Stout; ABV: 11%

What the Brewer Says: "In a world of uncertainty, hardship, and people trying to hold us back, do we need the undead and trademark attorneys too? Clown Shoes says, 'No. Die, monsters, die!' Forces of darkness brought about a change in the name of this beer, which was released to celebrate our second anniversary, but it still sports signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory and ash."

Color: Black

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Malty, biscuit

Body: Full

Taste: Toward the sweet end with smokey notes of caramel and chocolate

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "Reminds me of Debbie who used to tend bar with me at Fort Drum - sweet and dusky; Big, bold beer; Full bodied; Dark caramel; It's a sledge-hammer; Punch you right in the mouth strong; Snifter in front of the fireplace beer; Sort of oaky chocolate taste."


There's nothing like a BOTB meeting where there's not a loser in the bunch (other than Loser, as mentioned before). Really tough to say which was our favorite. Of the lower ABV bunch, Devil's Backbone's 8-Point IPA we all loved unconditionally. The bigger beers created a tougher call. Maybe Foley Brothers Prospect IPA. with Dawn of the Red and Citra Ass Down right there. Yike! Tough call. This was a great bunch of beers. Period!


Gerry, one of the  BOTB founding members (well, technically we're all founding members, but it sounds good) has put together an interesting and fun beer book written for his own and our edification, but I thought I'd include a link to it for our loyal BOTB readers. Check it out below and enjoy. It's full of neat beer trivia, information and opinions with tongue often planted firmly in cheek. 


Got a beer you've been wondering about? Thinking: I wonder if the BOTB Guys have tried this one? Well, wonder no more. You have two ways to find out. You can type the name in the search box at the top of the page here. That will take you to any post that mentions that beer. For a quick reference you can also go to the link below for a quick look at beers the beers we've tested and what we thought (using a four star rating system). Check it out:

The BOTB Guys

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